D. M. Thomas, author of The White Hotel, the best-selling erotic novel about Freudian psychoanalysis and the holocaust, has had a complicated love life.
Soon after marrying his first wife Maureen he got a job at a teacher training college and started seducing his students. One of them, having became a teacher herself, wanted a child. Denise would have lost her job if she’d become a single parent, so Thomas divorced Maureen and married her. He claimed it was a temporary marriage of convenience, and for a period divided his time between the two women. Eventually Maureen remarried and Thomas went through with his plan, and divorced Denise, but he never quite ended the relationship.
After the publication of The White Hotel in 1981, Thomas was rich and famous. He ran erotic writing courses, and had more affairs. Eventually Denise got cancer and when they looked into what provision they had made for their son they discovered the divorce papers had never been properly filed. They were still married, and remained so, till Denise died in 1998. The following year he married the poetry therapist Victoria Field, and in 2005 moved on to wife number four, Angela Embree.
Does knowing all that help us understand this poem? I’ve no idea.
But the final three lines are wonderful, whatever.
My soon-to-be fourth wife
is preparing for our first barbecue,
while my third wife
is taking out and packing books
she’d interwoven with mine
in alphabetical order.
Why is there always so much confusion?
My fourth wife is saying she brought twelve steak knives
from Canada, but now there are only nine.
I was hoping a certain poetry book
was mine, not my third wife’s. I think
the barbecue tongs we will be using
are really hers.
I wish my third wife could stay for the barbecue
but my fourth wife would object,
and maybe my third wife would too.
I wish my first wife’s second husband
would let her come to the barbecue,
and bring himself. My fourth wife
would be fine with that. Why are people
so unreasonable? I wish my second wife
wasn’t dead, but could come too.
But then she wouldn’t be happy with my third wife,
and my first wife not happy with my second.
I know my first wife would like my fourth wife.
Many hands make light work,
and I’m hopeless at this kind of thing –
getting the charcoal to light and
cooking chops, sausages and stuff.
by DM Thomas. From Flight & Smoke
By Thomas Hardy
Published in Wessex Poems and Other Verses in 1898, this was probably written when Hardy was in his mid 50′s. Tess of the d’Urbervilles was selling like hot cakes, he was daringly writing about sex in Jude the Obscure, and flirting with society ladies. But he was feeling his years.
Fifteen or so years later the widowed Hardy would marry his secretary Florence Dugdale, 39 years his junior. He was still a player.
I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, “Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!”
For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
Leigh barrier to Allington lock
Twenty miles gentle paddling spiced up by Environment Agency canoe shoots. The railway follows the valley most of the way so getting back to the top is easy, and there’s excellent wild camping at Oakweir lock, Stoneham lock and Barming bridge. I dunked my camera so the pictures below are either cribbed from the web (forgive me), or credit Alan or Pete.
0 miles – Leigh flood barrier. Built in 1982 to protect Tonbridge, it wasn’t adequate in 2013, and may need to be raised soon.
It is on the new cut, now the main channel. No easy access. Better to launch in Tonbridge and paddle up to the barrier.
0.5 mile – old stream joins right.
1 mile – Lucifer footbridge. Barden Park right.
1.2 miles – railway bridge.
River divides round Tonbridge sports-ground.
|Left channel footbridge 1 mile.
Slipway left 1.5 miles.
|Alternative right channel. Allotments right
Boatyard right.1.4 miles – footbridge.
Botany stream leaves right over weir.
1.5 miles New Wharfe Road bridge
1.6 miles – channels merge
1.8 miles – Town Bridge
2 miles – Town lock right. Sluice gate. Canoe pass. Weir. Millstream leaves left
2.5 miles – Cannon Lane bridge. Access left below bridge.
2.8 miles – Botany stream rejoins right
3 miles – Gravel conveyor bridge
3.5 miles Eldridge’s lock left. Sluice. Canoe shoot right. In two sections.
4.5 miles – Porters lock. Sluice gates right. Canoe shoot. Channel leading to lock left
5 miles – Hartlake bridge.
Memorial to 30 hop pickers who drowned here 1853 when an earlier bridge collapsed in flood. Access below bridge.
5.25 miles – footbridge
6 miles – East lock right.
Canoe shoot middle.
Sluice gates left.
6.25 miles – Ford Green footbridge
7 miles – Oak weir lock Right
Canoe pass middle
Camping allowed on the island. No facilities.
7.25 miles – Stilstead bridge
7.75 miles – River Bourne joins left. Footbridge.
Hop Farm Family Park right. Many attractions. If that sort of thing floats your boat, pass under the footbridge right to reach the campsite. If not, wild camping at Stoneham lock is only two miles away
8.5 miles – Sluice weir lock left. Sluice gates and weir middle. Canoe shoot and fish ladder right.
Click here for a video clip of shooting the canoe pass
9 miles – Branbridges. Road bridge
9.25 miles – A228 bridge
9.3 miles – conveyor belt bridge
9.5 miles – Railway bridge
10 miles – Stoneham old lock (disused). Camping. No facilities.
10.75 miles - Yalding. Sluice and weir right. Take lock cut left.
Alternatively land right upstream of the booms, portage over the bank to river Teise, under Twyford bridge and down to Marlin canoe club campsite (booking needed).
Footbridge over lock cut (Hampstead lane canal). Anchor inn left
11.5 miles – Hampstead bridge and Hampstead lock
Hampstead marina right below the lock
11.75 miles – rejoin main channel
13.5 miles – Bow bridge. Wateringbury
15 miles – Teston lock. Weir right. Canoe shoot left. Beware – in two section.
15.1 miles – Teston bridge. Reader’s cricket balls were made in Teston for 200 years
Teston bridge county park left. Access and parking.
16 miles – Barming bridge. Site of old ford. Camping is allowed on the right bank just before the bridge
17 miles – East Farleigh bridge
Farleigh lock. No canoe shoot. But easy portage.
18.5 miles – Tovil footbridge. Access right below.
19 miles – Millennium footbridge. The upstream one.
19.5 miles – Maidstone bridge
19.6 miles Maidstone New bridge
20 miles – Rail bridge
20.5 miles – Maidstone millenium footbridge. The second millenium bridge in Maidstone.
22 miles – Allington lock (tidal limit). Malt Inn right. Slipway left.
Overlooking the river Weser
This beautiful little cemetery, between the road and the river, enhanced my evening walk.
The expensively carved marble gravestones tell the story of Germany’s prosperous and stable recent past. Post war couples reach a good age, the man dies, and after a longish widowhood his wife goes too. No children have joined them yet.
Only one child grave, and only a couple of husbands outliving their wives.
Jim Thornton May 2014
By E. E. Cummings
As Cummings wrote:
“The poems are for you and me and are not for mostpeople – its no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. Mostpeople have less in common with ourselves than the squarerootofminusone. [...] If mostpeople were to be born twice they’d improbably call it dying.”
This one is from 50 Poems published in 1940. Read it out loud.
love is the every only god
who spoke this earth so glad and big
even a thing all small and sad
man,may his mighty briefness dig
for love beginning means return
seas who could sing so deep and strong
one querying wave will whitely yearn
from each last shore and home come young
so truly perfectly the skies
by merciful love whispered were,
completes its brightness with your eyes
any illimitable star
After newborn circumcision
A poor boy in Pittsburg, USA, had his penis accidently amputated during circumcision with a Mogen clamp. He was lucky to get to a centre where microvascular surgery was possible, the penis was reattached, and after a worrying time for all concerned, it appears to have survived. Time will tell how it functions later.
But look how hard the authors had to work to make the case sufficiently original to justify publication. Amputation itself won’t do, nor reimplantion, not even microvascular surgical reimplantation. All are too common; only last year some Canadian urologists described a series of five amputations with two reimplantations (click here). The present case was apparently only worth publishing because it was the first time someone had reported using leeches to reduce the postoperative oedema.
It’s pretty obvious that even in developed countries these catastrophic complications are under reported (click here). One dreads to think what is going on in mass neonatal circumcision campaigns in Africa.
A defense of abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson
In retelling the famous violinist story (click here) I forgot the second part of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s thought experiment – the move from justifying abortion after rape, to justifying it after failed contraception.
No-one would claim that a burglar had a right to stay in your house just because you opened a window to let in some air and he climbed in. Nor would be OK if an innocent person blundered in. Thomson asks us to imagine a world like this;
“People-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets and upholstery. You don’t want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however, and on very, very rare occasions does happen, one of the screens is defective and a seed drifts in and takes root. Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house? Surely not – despite the fact that you voluntarily opened your windows, you knowingly kept carpets and upholstered furniture, and you knew that screens were sometimes defective.”
Good eh? Here’s the article. judith jarvis Thomson a defense of abortion